This week’s hearing suggests the partisan games are wrapping up. Most of the committee members, on both sides, asked substantive questions.
Then there was Mr. Johnson, who just could not let go. Making everything about him and his bruised petals, he whined that Ms. Lipstadt had attacked him personally, without knowing anything about what a good guy he is and how, back in Milwaukee, he worked with the minister of a Black church to help struggling congregants turn their lives around. He demanded to know if she “feels bad” about having said mean things. “You don’t know what’s in my heart,” he bleated. Ultimately, he accepted her apology, but then declared her unqualified and said he wouldn’t support her anyway.
It was a bravura display from a guy who has not exactly been a beacon of truth, justice or decency.
By now, there is hardly any point in expressing dismay that Republicans have turned into a bunch of snowflakes. Mr. Trump is famous for an ego as delicate as it is oversized. Devin Nunes, the former congressman and Trump stooge, has spent the past few years suing people who said unkind things about him, including a satirical Twitter account by a fictional cow. One of the party’s hot new crusades is getting public schools to ban books that might make white kids feel icky about this nation’s long history of racism.
That said, as a senator, Mr. Johnson is supposed to put the public interest ahead of his own personal grievance.
Of course, he is far from the only Republican playing politics with confirmations. And at least his objections, no matter how petty, involved the nominee in question — unlike, say, the blanket holds that Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley issued last year to protest unrelated policy moves by the Biden administration. Dozens of nominees to the State Department languished so that the two presumed presidential wannabes could posture for their base.
This is no way to run a government. As The Times reported last month, hundreds of Biden nominees remain stuck in the Senate “because of partisan dysfunction or personal pique.” During his first year in office, only 41 percent of Mr. Biden’s nominees cleared the Senate, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. This compares with 57 percent of Mr. Trump’s first-year nominees, 69 percent of President Barack Obama’s and 75 percent of George W. Bush’s. The average time for confirmation of Mr. Biden’s picks was 103 days — longer than any of the previous six administrations.
“You’re seeing a broken system breaking down even further,” the partnership’s chief executive, Max Stier, told The Times. “We need a political Geneva Convention, to distinguish between legitimate partisan differences and the destruction of our core government infrastructure.”